| WASHINGTON, June 25
WASHINGTON, June 25 If the battle over the U.S.
Export-Import Bank is Washington's latest political tempest,
then Don Nelson from Bakersfield, California is aiming at the
eye of the storm.
Nelson's small oilfield equipment company is part of new
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's district, and he wants
the suddenly powerful politician to know that the Republican
right's war on what it sees as "crony capitalism" at the export
credit agency could claim hometown casualties.
"It would be a disaster for our company," if the Ex-Im Bank
is shuttered as McCarthy and a faction of House Republicans
hope, said Nelson, president of ProGauge Technologies, Inc., who
said he voted for McCarthy.
With two-thirds of his business and perhaps half of his
company's 100 jobs dependent on deals Ex-Im helps finance, "I
need to meet with Kevin McCarthy and let him know, this is not a
good thing for America."
The 80-year-old bank provides about $37 billion a year in
direct loans to foreign buyers of U.S. products, credit
guarantees to American companies and credit insurance to aid
exports. Critics, including the House Tea Party caucus, say it
unduly benefits insiders who know how the system works.
Ex-Im's fate may hinge on the success Nelson and other small
entrepreneurs have in convincing their lawmakers that the agency
isn't just a sink where tax money disappears into global
companies like Boeing, Corp. It aids the very small businesses
that Republican critics say are being put at a competitive
disadvantage by the program.
The bank has had mixed success on that front. It has missed
its own internal targets for small business lending and much of
its activity does support mega-companies like Boeing Co
and Caterpillar Inc that would arguably fare just fine
on their own.
But the bank reaches further than just financing airplanes
and mining trucks, and hundreds of businesses and groups from
across the country have been mobilized in what is probably
Ex-Im's best chance of survival.
Steered by Washington's corporate and lobbying elite, the
campaign has reached far into the countryside.
The 90,000 folks in Idaho's rural Bannock County aren't big
exporters -- yet. But Pocatello-Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce
President Matt Hunter said they are trying to lure firms to set
up operations in the county that would likely want access to the
export financing that Ex-Im Bank provides.
"I have already sent the emails," to Idaho's all-Republican
congressional delegation, Hunter said.
"MADE IN THE USA"
As Washington agencies go, the Ex-Im Bank is small potatoes.
The most unfavorable interpretation of its finances is that
it costs taxpayers a net of around $200 million a year, and its
deals cover only 2 percent of U.S. exports. It does charge for
its services -- helping overseas buyers acquire U.S. exports or
aiding companies like Nelson's post collateral for deals -- and
by its own accounting turns a profit.
While much of the lobbying is being led by movers and
shakers at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Aerospace
Industries Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, the
Nuclear Energy Institute, and a host of other major industrial
groups others are also pushing back hard.
There are divisions within the Republican party over whether
to allow the bank to live on. The U.S. Congress is debating
whether to reauthorize it, and some congressional leaders like
McCarthy want to let the authorization expire this fall.
Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger from northern
Illinois said he worried about "a libertarian theology that's
really starting to creep in." If the bank disappears, he said,
it could damage U.S. competitiveness as well as small businesses
in his district.
"We're for limited government, we're not for no government."
At Price Pump, a California company that makes industrial
pumps, Bob Piazza said he relies on Ex-Im bank credit insurance
and could lose a million dollars a year in foreign sales.
He has made sure Congress knows it. In letters to lawmakers,
he said the choice boils down to keeping the "Made in the USA"
label in circulation, or ceding ground "to a European, Southeast
Asian, or even the Chinese ... And once you lose a customer it's
very difficult to get that business back."
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, Susan Cornwell, Mark
Felsenthal, Krista Hughes, and Anna Yukhananov)